From Puglia to London in search of Cheese: Alessandro Grano

Alessandro Grano is originally from Puglia, and is now the head chef at La Fromagerie, one of London’s premier destinations for tasting cheese and wine together.

A member of the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance, Alessandro is one half of the team who’ll be guiding us on a special Dinner Date at Cheese 2019 focusing on one animal: the goat.

In Getting the Goat we’ll be pairing the oft-overlooked goat meat (as provided by James Whetlor of Cabrito) with a range of goat cheeses. We caught up with Alessandro for a quick chat about London, cheese and the slow life.

What are your earliest food memories?

I remember as a child I used to go to the local market with my grandfather to buy fresh ingredients, then we’d come together and I’d watch him cook, observing everything he did, helping him to prepare the meals. That’s where it all began. All those different smells, colors and shapes… I knew cooking was my calling. Then I spent my summers as a teenager cleaning seafood and shellfish before moving to London.

You’ve been living and working in the UK for a long time now — what changes in British food culture have you seen in that time?

I have been in London for 18 years now! Yes, during this time there’s a lot of changes. Quality cheese shops, bakeries, butchers and food markets have opened all over the place, and across the country there are new dairies popping up, passionate producers who are starting to make great artisanal products, from cheese to beer and beyond. There’s no doubt that there’s a much wider and and better selection of food available now than when I arrived. Consumers are more interested and focused on product quality and product provenance.

What are your favorite British cheeses? Does it depend on the season? How do you like to eat them?

I really like British cheeses now, but it wasn’t always this way! It’s a world I’ve discovered relatively recently. Some of my favorites are Sinodun Hill, a tangy goat cheese, Rollright, a washed rind cheese and of course a good farmhouse Cheddar such as Montgomery’s. I remember the first time that I tried it, it was an enormous surprise, along with Stichelton (Slow Food Presidium). I like to choose cheeses according to the season, especially with young cheeses so you can really taste the milk at its best, spring goat cheeses are spectacular, but in the winter I indulge myself with comforting cheeses like Mont d’Or. Good farmhouse cheese does not need much embellishment, just enjoy with a good piece of bread and perhaps a glass of wine.

La Fromagerie in Bloomsbury. Photo: Table Magazine

In your Dinner Date at Cheese we’ll be focusing on goat cheeses. What makes them so different from cow or sheep’s milk cheeses?

Apart from their extremely versatility when cooking with them in both sweet and savory dishes, they are also easier to digest than other cheeses. Eating a goat cheese after a meal can also really cleanse your palate.

You’re a member of the Slow Food Cooks’ Alliance: what does that mean to you? How do you live Slowly?

I am the head chef at La Fromagerie London, overseeing our three kitchens. We source many of our products directly from small producers, with an abundance of fresh seasonal produce & dry goods. My team uses the shops as their larder, and in turn all of this produce is showcased on the menus. I try to buy as much British produce as I can, especially meat, which I source from a rare breed farmer in Yorkshire, as well as fish from the Essex and Cornish coasts. And of course in the cheese room we focus on raw milk cheeses.

So what can we expect from your Dinner Date at Cheese 2019?

We are going to celebrate the beauty of the goat, from the milk to the meat of the billies. This meat still isn’t appreciated as much as it should be by a lot of people, so this dinner is a way to showcase its uses in the kitchen and let our guests discover this delicious meat and taste some great goat cheeses alongside it.

Come and catch Alessandro in action at Getting the Goat on September 20 at the Academic Tables of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo!

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